Access to Care

Expanding access to primary care improves outcomes, lowers costs

Through all of our efforts and initiatives – care coordination, community partnerships, data management – we are connecting people to the care they need. We are working to bring programs to the community as well as making sure that people know about and are able to access services through our healthcare system and provider agencies. We are using data to identify needs – for individuals and for community-wide initiatives. Our emphasis is on prevention and primary care, both of which can lead to better outcomes and lower costs.

Early efforts included the introduction of Open-Access or Advanced Access Scheduling to Trenton’s outpatient clinics. Developed by Mark Murray, MD, MPA, and Catherine Tantau, BSN, MPA, Advanced Access Scheduling uses statistical principles to better anticipate demand for care, improving patients’ access to and continuity with primary care providers. Results in Trenton were impressive, with average wait times for established patients to secure an appointment going from an average of 37 days to two at Henry J. Austin Health Center. For more information, see the full story here.

Through the Community-wide Clinical Care Coordination Team (C4T) and our Care Management Team, we are working to ensure that high-need individuals with complex comorbidities are connected to the services they need, reducing their unavoidable use of emergency rooms. By linking people to primary care and making sure that follow-up measures are taken, we also aim to reduce the need for inpatient stays and avoidable hospital readmissions – both of which bring down healthcare costs. Most importantly, patients gain the ability to better manage their own health and have a better experience within the healthcare system.

Availability of primary care services has also been increased through expansion of Henry J. Austin’s clinic locations to include 433 Bellevue Avenue. This brings needed services into the West Ward of Trenton, where Henry J. Austin Health Center had not provided direct services before. THT was also instrumental in re-opening the City of Trenton’s pediatric and adolescent treatment center at 218 North Broad Street as a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Free Clinic, staffed by volunteer providers plus Trenton’s public health nursing staff.

In 2015, with support from Janssen Pharmaceuticals, THT launched a project called Inroads for Health: Taking It to the Streets, using the City of Trenton’s mobile health van to bring basic health screenings and referrals out into the community. The van, staffed by City Department of Health nurses, visits health fairs throughout the city and is on location at the new Greenwood Ave. Farmers Market every Monday afternoon, from June through October. City nurses are joined weekly at the Farmers Market by health professionals from St. Francis Medical Center and Henry J. Austin Health Center. In addition to blood pressure, body mass index, and blood glucose screenings, patients receive a general health assessment and are referred to medical and other services such as nutrition counseling. Nurses follow up with individuals who are screened and need additional care. In its inaugural season, more than 400 individuals, most of whom were minority and low-income, were able to obtain basic health assessments and were linked to needed services through this intervention.

Through Faith in Prevention, a program funded by the NJ Department of Health, THT is partnering with faith-based organizations to bring an evidence-based curriculum on healthy eating and active living to congregations of all denominations. Through the classes, relationships are established and individuals who may need more information and support are identified, including many who have type 2 diabetes. St. Francis Medical Center works with our Faith in Prevention team to offer a second program, focusing on diabetes care and self-management, which is also offered in the community-based location.